Warming a can of chickpeas in extra virgin olive oil, garlic and herbs before adding them to your favorite salad makes a huge difference in flavor. Add them to perfectly ripe tomatoes, crisp cucumber chunks and a light lemony dressing for a summer salad bursting with Mediterranean flavors in every bite.
I’ve lived through blizzards in New England, hurricanes in Florida and the recent problems with empty grocery shelves so I have always had a well stocked pantry.
The Atlantic hurricane season starts in June and goes all the way to November 30. Even though our home has a whole house generator if the power goes off, I like to be prepared to weather a storm. That means having plenty to eat in case grocery shelves are empty for days or weeks, much like at the beginning of the Covid pandemic.
Even if there is no natural disaster or pandemic, sometimes I just want a quick dinner prepared from what I have in our own kitchen and that is when a well stocked pantry comes in handy.
I like to keep my pantry stocked with pastas, rice, condiments, oils and vinegars, olives and pickles, crackers, peanut butter, canned tomatoes, tuna, stock, dried and canned beans. I always have a large variety of canned beans, especially cannellini, black beans and chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, as they are a good source of protein.
Recently, I bought a generic can of chickpeas as the grocery store was out of the usual brand I buy. After tasting a bean, I found it bland and too firm to my liking so I decided to microwave them to soften the canned beans slightly. Rather than cooking them with the liquid from the can, I drizzled the chickpeas with extra virgin olive oil, added some diced red onion, fresh minced garlic and seasoned them with dried oregano, salt and pepper. I didn’t want the chickpeas to burst so I cooked them for thirty second intervals until they were just warmed through. The chickpeas had taken on a nutty flavor and the onions and garlic had both lost their raw bite.
Previously, I drained and marinated chickpeas at room temperature while I prepped the tomatoes and cucumbers for one of my favorite summer salads. As I was to discover, sometimes a simple change in a recipe can make a big difference in the final dish you are preparing.
I was surprised at how microwaving the canned beans in olive oil for such a short time had enhanced their flavor. If you don’t have a microwave, heat the oil, sauté the onion and garlic, add the drained beans and seasonings and cook until heated through before making this marinated chickpea salad.
My husband and I refer to this marinated chickpea, tomato and cucumber salad as our summer salad. It was usually made when tomatoes were abundant in our New England gardens. Though fresh tomatoes won’t hit their peak in most areas until August and September, our season here in Florida is just coming to an end and good heirloom tomatoes will be hard to find. That is when I’ll make this salad with smaller cherry and grape tomatoes, which tend to be sweet, especially if you can find the Sugar Bomb variety.
Marinated Chickpea, Tomato and Cucumber Salad
Serves 2, adjust the recipe according
- 2 – 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil plus extra, if needed
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I typically use a 7.7 oz. can for 2 people and a 15.5 oz. can for 4 persons)
- 1/4 of a small red or sweet onion, diced
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- a pinch of dried oregano
- salt and pepper, to taste
- juice from 1/2 lemon or to taste
- 2 to 3 ripe heirloom tomatoes or 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 small cucumber, peeled and quartered (seeds removed if large)
- fresh basil, thinly sliced (I often use mint as a substitute)
Add the chickpeas, oil, onion, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper to a microwave safe bowl and stir well. Cover and microwave at 30 second intervals for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until just warmed through. Uncover, stir and let the mixture cool to room temperature. The longer the chickpeas sit, the more flavorful they will become. Once the chickpeas have marinated, cut up the tomatoes and cucumbers into bite size pieces and add to the bowl with the beans. Gently stir and let the salad sit for a few minutes for the flavors to mingle. When ready to serve, add the basil, gently stir and taste to see if more olive oil, lemon juice or seasonings need to be added. Be sure to serve this marinated chickpea salad with warm bread to soak up the wonderful juices that accumulate while the salad is marinating.
This simple marinated chickpea, tomato and cucumber salad has always been a favorite. The one change I made of warming the chickpeas briefly in the microwave made them absorb the flavor of the dressing so much more effectively. I’ll continue to use this technique whenever I use a can of beans from my pantry for a quick bean salad.